There’s a lot of musical fun to be had outside your home town.
I must confess to being a New Zealand folk festival newbie, still in my first year of discovering that there is a (musical) life outside of work and a big city. And festivals do seem to have their own life, and each their own character.
Strathean was basically a big winter house party, with a weekend of relaxed and friendly music. A nice introduction to a wider musical scene with more new than existing friends.
Wellyfest (The Wellington Folk Festival) takes place among good facilities in a cold and wet no-man’s-land less than an hour from the city. A very enjoyable event with more new friends, some good acts (Spooky Men’s Chorale topped the tree for me), interesting workshops (slide guitar was fun, although the harmony workshop didn’t teach anything much) and an excellent home brew / singaround session.
Wellington Folk Festival was also my introduction to ‘Folk’ as a sometimes very (very) broad definition in NZ. You can hear trad folk, modern singer/songwriter, blues, jazz, early music….even country. Yup, there can be plenty of banjos at some events. A very good weekend though.
Tui Farm was also fun with plenty of good music and enough friends and friendly people to make for a great experience. The ‘camp choir’ was a new one for me (you learn and perform something from scratch and the performers can outnumber the audience) and well worth signing up to. See my separate post.
Auckland was a big (big) organised, set piece event that still had opportunities for impromptu singarounds and jamming. The open mic on the Friday evening was a real experience and seems to be where almost everyone crams into the barn. The big a capella singaround later in the weekend was great (take a beer receptacle and a popular folk song to these sort of things).
Waihi Bush was a long drive down south, but a really friendly event and I was made to feel very welcome despite turning up solo. You basically camp around the host’s house, with marquee alongside. It was very hot but there is a swimming hole right next to the camping if you need to cool off (or keep young kids entertained). The big camp fire on the friday and saturday nights make for a superb end to the day. The music is good, and it was a Folk festival; not a banjo in sight.
Hamsterfest was different again. The long, hot, dry summer had an effect and camping was a bit dusty and fly-strewn – you camp alongside large stables by the racecourse at Matamata. Plenty of blackboard opportunities, good music, the blind date was good fun, the Octagon made for a great sounding singaround and dancing in the sun during the bring-a-dish party was one of the highlights. And as it is over Easter, there is peace-egging – know how to throw and catch a raw egg and you could win something.
The summer events raced by. There are many more to do, and many to do again.
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